Transforming the bathroom that came with your house into the one you’ve always wanted can cost a fortune — but it doesn’t have to.
Here’s how to update and upgrade a bathroom without breaking the bank:
1. Leave everything where it is. Perhaps the costliest and complicated thing you can do during a bathroom remodel is to change the layout of the room. If you want to move the toilet, shower or sink to a different location in the room, you’ll probably have to reroute the plumbing, tear out the floor and poke a lot of holes in the walls. That means you’ll have to pay to replace the floor, patch up the walls and hire a plumber.
Instead, replace your old toilet, sink and shower with nice, new ones — but put them in the same place as the old ones. Your fixtures will show off the latest styles and look shiny and new, without the expense of tearing your room apart for them.
2. Don’t knock down or add any walls. Not only does that entail demolition, sheetrock replacement and plumbing, but you’re likely to need some electrical work, which involves an extra subcontractor. Work with the layout you have.
3. If you convert your tub to a shower, keep the drain in the same place. Moving the drain is a big job that can get expensive.
4. Minimize the number of sprays you add to your shower. It’s fun to create a spa-like space in the bathroom, but those sprays use a lot of water, and there’s a good chance the pipes your house was built with don’t have the capacity from the supply lines to deliver the extra flow.
5. Look for a contractor who is licensed to do more than one thing, like a design/build company that can design your new room, tear out anything in the old one that you don’t want, and build the whole thing back. Or you could find a carpenter who also is a tile setter. Minimizing the number of contractors you need for the project usually makes the job less expensive.
6. Don’t do it yourself. Skipping the contractors all together might sound like a money-saver, but when it comes to the bathroom, few homeowners are prepared to deal with the surprises that lurk behind the walls and under the floor. For example, in an older home, you’ll surely confront mold and wood rot under floors and behind walls, and you’ll have to deal with that before you can move on. And installing a shower or bathtub improperly — without waterproofing the underside of the shower pan or rubberizing the membrane that goes to the drain, for example — will force you to pay someone to stop the leaks later.
7. Don’t go too “trendy.” Blindly selecting the “latest thing” will make your remodeled bathroom look great — for a year or two. And then, those things will be so out of style that you’ll want to replace them before they’re even close to worn out. Keep up with trends by painting the walls an up-to-the-minute color. When that color is yesterday’s news, all you have to replace is the paint.